Looking back over the years, I can count seven cars that I’ve purchased. Some were complete money pits, and others served me well. Of these seven, my favorite has to be car number two, a 1987 Dodge Colt I acquired in my early 20s.
I bought this from a private dealer at a time when I was in desperate need of a replacement to my dying Ford Escort . The Colt was one of two cars ready for sale, and the only one within my price range. It was a silver, 2-door, manual hatchback. Although I had only minimal experience driving stick, I decided to buy this for a fairly decent price. In fact, I actually had enough saved up to pay cash (saving me the hassle of a regular car payment).
This car took me everywhere and back. It was small enough to park in the most compact spaces, but had plenty of room in the hatch for my needs. In the days when gas was cheap, it still gave me great mileage (around 40 MPG). Operating a stick shift also provided me with a greater sense of control while driving. It wasn’t a Porsche or BMW, but it was a pleasure to drive.
What really exemplified my fondness for this car was the way I personalized it. First, I named it Eleanor (after the Beatles song ” Eleanor Rigby ,” which had been playing in my head for some time). Next, I fastened a few stickers to the side. One of these was an image of Morticia from The Addams Family (found in a skateboard shop at the shore). Having Morticia on my car not only gave the vehicle an identity, but it also caught the eye of passers-by. My favorite story is how I was driving down a highway one afternoon, and someone passed me in the left lane. As he drove by, he slid his hand out of the window, and gave me a “snap-snap” gesture, mimicking the opening credits of the show.
As much as I loved this car, I still had much to learn about proper auto care. In retrospect, I now realize that my dealer also wasn’t exactly the best mechanic in the area. These factors led to the early demise of a great car. Although I won’t go into the details here, I’ll say that Eleanor didn’t last more than a few years. Ultimately (and solemnly), I traded her in when I bought a Volvo.
I haven’t driven Eleanor in about 15 years, but that car is still burned into my memory. To date, all my subsequent vehicles have been 4-door automatics with less efficient gas mileage . These days, I don’t personalize them as much (although the naming convention continues). Perhaps it’s due to my changing responsibilities and priorities, but cars to me are now a mode of transportation and not an extension of my persona. Maybe Eleanor merely symbolizes a different (and simpler) time in my life. She was one of a kind.